Shorty’s: Still smokin’ after 60 years!

IMG_1137“Best Value” according to Money Magazine, “Best BBQ” according to New Times and Ocean Drive Magazine, and named “Best Family Dining” by Gourmet Magazine, Shorty’s on U.S. 1 in South Miami does not disappoint barbeque lovers. Since 1951 the original Shorty’s has been pleasing hungry diners with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and all the fixin’s. John introduced me to Shorty’s communal dining about ten years ago. A place he remembered fondly from his bi-weekly meals at Shorty’s…a favorite place to eat on Tuesdays when his mom was taking courses earning her master’s degree at UM.

Other than being air-conditioned, Shorty’s proved to be just as John remembered. Diners sit at long picnic style tables elbow to elbow with strangers. No napkins but rolls of paper towels to mop up the BBQ sauce. Waitresses bring brown paper lunch bags to contain the mess and small cups of warm water at the end of the meal so guests can clean up before they leave.

On a recent visit we ordered a pulled pork and brisket sandwich with fries, slaw, and beans to share. Somehow John forgot to order the corn-on-the-cob, his favorite side. Guess we’ll have to make a return trip for the corn and grab a slice of key lime pie for dessert. Shorty’s, a five star dining experience!

Little Library on the Trail

littlefreelibrary2Take a book. Read a book. When I saw this message on a box posted on the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin, I had to stop and check it out. What I discovered was a Little Free Library. Of course, I opened the door and found nine new books waiting for someone to pluck them up and read. The titles were familiar. I’d read all of the children’s books in the box to my elementary students over the years. In addition, there were best sellers waiting for adult readers.

At the time I didn’t realize this was a recent addition, but the State Library of Florida posted a picture of the little library on their Facebook page with a link to an article in the Tampa Bay Times. I peeked in the book exchange box only three days after the Friends of the Dunedin Library unveiled it on April 30th…more than half of the original 26 books already in the hands of readers. According to the Times, this is the first of five Little Free Libraries planed for the community. Quite a commitment!littlefreelibrary

My curiosity led me to the homepage of an organization called Little Free Library which promotes literacy and the love of reading worldwide through book exchanges. With a goal of building 2,510 libraries, the Dunedin Little Free Library makes them one step closer. There’s even an official Little Free Library Pinterest board with pictures and stories about other book exchange boxes. Maybe Ocklawaha needs a Little Free Library!


Weigh-in Wednesday: Week 22

LoseItlogoI think I’ve finally learned the difference between a wish and a goal. For too many years my plan for losing weight has been, “I wish I weighed less.” No plan, just a wish. The result – I gained weight every year. Finally, after gaining a couple of pounds per year I had to come up with something better than “I wish”. This year I’ve had success because I set a goal and then developed a series of steps to make the goal a reality.

This week I managed to lose a half pound but I’ve been lazy on executing the plan. I’m back to recording food and exercise on Lose It. I don’t want to slack off on techniques that have proven successful. I need to weigh-in, record, and stop wishing if I’m going to make the next goal and keep off the weight I’ve lost so far!

Florida Folk Festival Perfect Summer Kick Off

IMG_1171Memorial Day weekend marks the annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. As always, this year’s festival showcased musicians, storytellers, and craftsman from throughout the state. Named Florida’s Best Cultural Event and a Top 20 Event in the Southeast United States, this year’s festival celebrated its 61st anniversary.

We started the day eating shrimp provided by Healthy Gulf Healthy Communities and continued to eat our way through the park tasting the Seminole fry bread, fried fish, chicken and dumplings, and apple cobbler topped with homemade ice cream. However, the festival was more than a food fest. Craftsman demonstrated their skills and sold their wares and eight stages scattered throughout the park hosted musicians who performed from early each morning until midnight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Pete Seeger, a performer at the first Florida Folk Festival, was not on this year’s line up, but we listened to folk singers, bluegrass bands, upstart pop groups and of course, fiddlers. The festival is home of the official Florida State Fiddle Contest with competitions held in youth, junior, popular, twin, and rustic categories. We listened to the competitors in the rustic category, an amazing group of musicians (and who knew Alachua’s the hot bed of fiddlers).

I can’t think of a better way to kick off the unofficial start of summer!


It’s Hurricane Season – time to prepare!

hurricaneflagWe all have a favorite season of the year. For most school children it’s summer – for obvious reasons or maybe the Christmas season. Sports fans may look forward to football season or baseball season. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed fall. The one season of the year I’ve never heard anyone claim as their favorite is the one that begins on June 1st and will conclude on November 30th, hurricane season. The 2013 hurricane begins this Saturday  so what better time to remind you of hurricane season preparations.

I lived in Florida for over 30 years before having any serious concern about hurricanes when Andrew hit south Florida. And while we were not directly affected by this storm in Ocala, my parents and the residents of Lighthouse Point where I grew up were evacuated. But after the storm, it wasn’t Lighthouse Point that was badly damaged but instead Homestead, Coral Gables, and other Dade County locations where Dad and his family lived. Seeing the images of destruction to familiar areas and hearing the stories of friends and relatives changed everything. Hurricanes are real threats that require real preparation. And of course, I’m sure you all remember the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005; but since you weren’t adults at that time you weren’t responsible for preparing for those storms. Now that you are on your own, you need to know what to do to prepare – and it’s NOT have a hurricane party. (No drinking when the meteorologists say “hunker down”).

So today, I’d like to share some hurricane preparation tips. If you decide to skip the rest of this memo, that’s fine…so long as you save this and read it when it’s time to prepare for the next hurricane heading toward central Florida (or Jacksonville).

  • Get cash! If the storm hits and you lose power, you will not be able to use your debit card so you’ll need cash. How much? Hard to say! I suggest a minimum of $200 in mostly small bills – ones, fives, tens, and some twenties because others may have difficulty giving change.
  • Fill your car with gas. You’ll need a full tank if you’re required to evacuate, but even without an evacuation order, you’ll want a full tank if there’s a loss of power since no power means no gas. And if you own gas cans, it would be a good idea to fill them as well.
  • Buy water. If you freeze individual bottles of water, you can use them to keep food fresh for awhile. The frozen bottles can be used in an ice chest to keep food cold or they can even be used in the refrigerator to keep food cold since the refrigerator is well insulated and can keep items cool for several days so long as it isn’t opened often. Then of course, when these bottles thaw, you’ve got water to drink as well. (You may have heard that you need to fill the tub with water in preparation for a hurricane. This is not for drinking, but rather for cleaning and other non drinking uses.) Of course, you won’t want to freeze all of our water bottles so make sure you have plenty.
  • Prepare a First-aid Kit. Band aids, antibiotic cream, Tylenol or other pain relievers, alcohol or alcohol wipes, insect relief ointment, gauze and adhesive tape are a few items to include. You may want to include allergy medicine, Tums, and Pepto Bismol as well as other items along those lines.
  • Prepare for darkness.  Flashlights and batteries are essential! Note flashlights…more than one. You need at least one lantern style flashlight which can stand on a table or counter – you’ll really appreciate this type in the bathroom. Then you’ll also need  the traditional style – one that can be easily carried and pointed in dark drawers, cabinets, ice chests, or refrigerators. And don’t forget to purchase a good supply of batteries to keep these flashlights lit.
  • Get a phone charger for your car. You’ll be miserable if you’re unable to call or text. Your phone will be an important connection to the outside world and your only way to stay in touch with and check on friends and family.
  • Check out your battery operated radio and make sure you have plenty of batteries. You’ll want to get weather updates as well as information following the storm so you’ll know how clean up is progressing in your area.
  • Stock up on non perishable food. Cereal, crackers, bread, peanut butter are just a few items that require no refrigeration or cooking. But in addition, you may want to cook some food prior to the storm for later use. Cook chicken, a roast, or other meat that can be eaten cold or used on sandwiches. This is also a good way to use food in the freezer to prevent it from spoiling if you lose power. Don’t forget propane for your grill since this is another good way to cook without electricity, and if you have a camp stove, you can cook most anything.
  • Stock up on paper products, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. Toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, Clorox wipes, and similar products are indispensable after a storm.
  • Pack important papers, some clothes, and other items in case you need to leave. It’s a good idea to organize and pack important papers (social security card, birth certificate, passport, insurance information…put these in a Ziplock bag to protect them) computer, chargers, clothes for a few days including sneakers or Topsiders, toothbrush, shampoo, and other personal items (don’t  forget prescriptions). If these items are packed, it’s much easier to load them in the car and head to a safer location if necessary.
  • Plan for pets. You’ll need pet food, shot records, leashes, carriers, and other items…especially if you need to leave home. Hopefully, you won’t need to go to a shelter; but if you do, you’ll need to know where you can go with pets.

For further tips on hurricane preparedness, check the list provided by the American Red Cross.

Let’s all hope that this is not needed. It would be great if we have another thirty year period with little hurricane activity, but it’s better to have a plan than to react at the last minute.


Wunderlist Wonderful

wunderlistOrganization depends on list making…at least for me and I’ve been searching for the perfect list making tool to use on my phone, iPad, and computer. I’ve tried several, but until recently they’ve all come up short. Wunderlist makes it possible for me to keep multiple lists in a format that allows tasks or items to be checked off upon completion. I set due dates and reminders attached to lists and can email the lists I want to share with others.

Collaborating on lists makes Wunderlist wonderful. John and I can both add items to our shared lists so he doesn’t have to rely on me to remember to add razor blades to the grocery list or I don’t have to ask him to add a blanket to the camping list. Both of us have access to the lists with the ability to make changes and then whoever happens to stop at Publix has the list. No more leaving the list at home or in the car or losing the scrap of paper. We’ve even started a list with ideas for next year’s 14 in 14.Wunderlist-iPhone

Not all of my lists are shared. I have a list for gift ideas. One for writing ideas. Another of books I want to read. Of course, I have lists for packing for weekend getaways, vacations, and items needed to resupply a first aid kit. If you’re a list maker and are ready to graduate from paper and pencil, Wunderlist may be just what you need. And did I mention it’s free! That makes it worth a try! I hope you agree that Wunderlist is a wonderful tool to keep you organized.

Take an Art Deco Walk in Miami Beach

IMG_1004Lucy Tobias’ 50 Great Walks in Florida peaked my interest in the Art Deco Walk in Miami Beach. Finally, after talking about taking this walk for years, we finally found time to go to South Beach and take a self guided tour of the Art Deco district, the first 20th century neighborhood recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

In her book, Lucy takes the official guided tour of the Miami Design Preservation League. They offer 90 minute tours daily at 10:30, but of course, we decided to try it on our own following the Miami Walking Tour: Art Deco District I found on the National Geographic website. Their easy to follow guide includes 13 buildings on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue with a short detour down Lincoln Road to a popular pedestrian-only outdoor mall.  We skipped the mall, but walked the Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue section locating the Carlyle, Sagamore, Delano and many others not included on their list.

According to the National Geographic guide there are more than 800 structures, mostly built between 1923 and 1943 with historical significance in the district, and I love their description:

The fanciful pastel buildings, with porthole windows, ship-like railings, sleek curves, glass blocks, shiny chrome, and gleaming terrazzo floors are prime eye candy.

We’re already planning our next trip to further explore the area. Another walk is in our future, this time in the evening, with the addition of the neon lights. Maybe we’ll even break down and pay the $20 to join one of the guided tours since tours gain access to the interior of buildings and visit roof top pools. Walking, the beach, and art all in one place!

“The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant”

IMG_1037The sign at Versailles proclaims,  “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” and while I’m not qualified to verify this claim, I can vouch for the first class dining experience. Last Saturday, after spending the morning on South Beach and the afternoon at a University of Miami baseball game we decided to go to Versailles for dinner.

This is a place John’s parents took us over thirty years ago. At that time, I wasn’t a very adventurous eater, and I remember being reluctant to try any of the strange dishes listed on the menu. I’m not sure what I ate or if I left my meal on my plate afraid to try foods I hadn’t heard of, but I do remember feeling very uncomfortable as John’s dad squeezed the car into a much too small parking space in a dark parking lot behind the restaurant on Calle Ocho and then waiting to be seated by a hostess I had difficulty understanding. Yes, I’d lived in Florida for almost ten years at that time, but I’d lived in Jacksonville and Lighthouse Point. I felt overwhelmed by the sites and sounds and food of Miami.

Now almost thirty-five years later I thoroughly enjoy everything about Cuban food. In fact, at Friday night’s baseball game I ate the Chicken Cubano, what I believe to be the best ballpark food in the country. Versailles added a parking lot across the street so we avoided the problem of parking the Suburban in a spot designed for a Mini. Either the hostess spoke much better English or I’m accustomed to the sound of the Cuban accent. And the problem ordering this time did not involve trying to find something I was willing to try but instead trying to decide which of the many dishes to order. In fact, John and I decided to get two different meals and then split them so we could taste a greater variety of food.


If excellent food is the hallmark required to earn the right to claim the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant, then Versailles deserves this badge of honor. I expected this to be an expensive meal, but the dinner prices ranged from $8-$15…not bad! And where else can you enjoy the entertainment of a mariachi band strolling through the restaurant while dining? If you visit Miami, a meal at Versailles needs to be included in your plans.

Is this progress?

laundry podThe Container Store floods my email account with messages about the latest and greatest items to organize. I usually unsubscribe to this type of email but since The Container Store is one of my favorite retailers I tolerate this nonsense. They send a never ending list of organization tips for the kitchen, office, pantry, closet, and even your car. Recently, it’s been packing tips, luggage, and a variety of organizers to best utilize the space in your bags.

But I’m completely baffled by the email on the Laundry POD. My first impression…what a cool device, but then I asked myself why would anyone need a laundry POD? According to the message, it’s perfect for small loads, hand washables, and it saves water. Maybe, but is this really progress? What’s next? A couple of brightly colored man-made rock type items that can be used for scrubbing clothes? What would our grandmothers’ or great-grandmothers’ think?

Watch the video and leave a comment. I’m interested in your thoughts.

Weigh-In Wednesday: Week 21

tireAn automobile tire or a human head + a bald eagle or 10 racks of baby back ribs. Anyway you say it, the result is the same…20 pounds! That’s how much weight I’ve lost since January 1st. However, when I think about losing an automobile tire, that sounds much more impressive. Making small changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle…major factors in losing weight. Writing about it every week may be even more important because so many people are holding me accountable.

I’m looking forward to meeting my new goal and moving to a maintain program, but for today I’m celebrating the loss of a tire!

I saw this on another blog but I’m posting in hopes that like me, you find it motivational.

1 pound = a Guinea Pig
1.5 pounds = a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts
2 pounds = a rack of baby back ribs
3 pounds = an average human brain
4 pounds = an ostrich egg
5 pounds = a Chihuahua
6 pounds = a human’s skin
7.5 pounds = an average newborn
8 pounds = a human head
10 pounds= chemical additives an American consumes each year
11 pounds = an average housecat
12 pounds = a Bald Eagle
15 pounds = 10 dozen large eggs
16 pounds = a sperm whale’s brain
20 pounds = an automobile tire
23 pounds = amount of pizza an average American eats in a year
24 pounds = a 3-gallon tub of super premium ice cream
25 pounds = an average 2 year old
30 pounds = amount of cheese an average American eats in a year
33 pounds = a cinder block
36 pounds = a mid-size microwave
40 pounds = a 5-gallon bottle of water or an average human leg
44 pounds = an elephant’s heart
50 pounds = a small bale of hay
55 pounds = a 5000 BTU air conditioner
60 pounds = an elephant’s penis (yep, weights more than his heart!)
66 pounds = fats and oils an average American eats in a year
70 pounds = an Irish Setter
77 pounds = a gold brick
80 pounds = the World’s Largest Ball of Tape
90 pounds = a newborn calf
100 pounds = a 2 month old horse
111 pounds = red meat an average American eats in a year
117 pounds = an average fashion model (and she’s 5’11”)
118 pounds = the complete Encyclopedia Britannica
120 pounds = amount of trash you throw away in a month
130 pounds = a newborn giraffe
138 pounds = potatoes an average American eats in a year
140 pounds = refined sugar an average American eats in a year
144 pounds = an average adult woman (and she’s 5’4”)
150 pounds = the complete Oxford English Dictionary
187 pounds = an average adult man
200 pounds = 2 Bloodhounds
235 pounds = Arnold Schwarzenegger
300 pounds = an average football lineman
400 pounds = a Welsh pony